Safety advocate tells students about drive to avoid ‘risks’

Safety advocate tells students about drive to avoid ‘risks’

Founder of the Drive to Save Lives Tour tells Dubuque Hempstead students about the horror of watching her twin sister die in a car crash.


Cara Filler watched her identical-twin sister, Mairin, die the day after their 18th birthday.

“I can tell you the second my sister died,” Filler said. “Half of me went with her.”

On Friday, Filler led Dubuque Hempstead High School juniors and seniors on an emotional ride as she shared her story and empowered students to make good choices.


Filler, founder of The Drive to Save Lives Tour, said she doesn’t want another person to become a statistic.

“I am sick and tired of car crashes being the number one killer of youth,” Filler said. “All of your lives, to me, are a fight worth fighting for.”

Students wiped away tears as Filler spoke about the day she lost her best friend.

It was Aug. 29, 1994. Filler and her sister had just finished successful job interviews at the same store inside a mall.

Mairin’s new boyfriend picked her up from the mall in a sports car. The duo sped by Filler, who drove behind them in another vehicle.

Filler said the boyfriend was driving more than three times the speed limit. He lost control of his car three miles from the mall and crashed into another driver.

“I watched them rip the car apart to get my sister out,” Filler said.

Emergency personnel placed Filler in an ambulance, where she was strapped to a bed.

“They strapped me to that bed because they were about to tell me the worst thing in my life,” Filler said.

Her sister was dead. Her best friend was a car crash statistic.

“After graduating high school, (Mairin’s) last accomplishment was becoming a number on a paper,” Filler said.

Hempstead’s prom is one week away. Whitney Lynch, a junior, said the presentation was an eye-opener.

“We really need to hear it. As high school students, we think it can’t happen to us,” she said.

Filler, of Portland, Ore., didn’t simply share her story. She also used humor to teach students four choices they can make to have fun in a safe way.

First, she said, don’t put yourself at risk.

“There are risks in life you don’t need to take,” Filler said.

Second, she warned students to get out of the car if they find themselves in a vehicle with a bad driver. Filler said students need to speak up for themselves and their friends.

Third, Filler said it’s OK to lie to make sure you’re safe. Filler said students can use one of “Three Ps” — pee, puke or period — to get themselves out of a dangerous situation.

She told students to do the “I have to pee dance” or tell the driver they are going to vomit. One suggestion that had a lot of students laughing was for ladies only.

“You start the conversation with ‘Uh-oh, I started my period and I have no pads or tampons,'” Filler said, adding that the driver is guaranteed to stop.

Finally, Filler told students to call their parents, even if they lied about what they were doing in the first place.

“Had my sister chosen any of those four simple choices, she wouldn’t be dead,” Filler said.

Junior Madeline Wagner said the presentation made her realize the importance of her decisions. She said she liked Filler’s suggestions.

“They’re definitely choices that I would use,” Wagner said.

Filler on Friday also spoke at the Iowa-Illinois Safety Council’s Professional Development Conference & Expo at the Grand River Center.

Although Filler has spoken to more than 2 million students worldwide, Hempstead was the first Iowa school she visited.

Before students left the auditorium, Hempstead Principal Lee Kolker spoke on behalf of the parents. His son, Evan, is a senior.

“Please hear some part of that message, because when you walk out that door and we say ‘I love you’ we mean ‘I love you’ and we want you to be safe,” Kolker said choking back tears.

“You mean the world to us,” he said.